Chosen because Cheshire Academy developed a blog for prospective boarding school families that launched huge gains in views and linkbacks—beginning the conversion of inquiry to matriculant.
The value of blogging as a form of inbound marketing is tremendous. According to Hubspot, businesses that blog receive 67% more leads than those that don’t and 97% more links to their website. Rightmix Marketing has a great infographic on the benefits of blogging. Other benefits of blogging for your school include establishing your school as an expert in child development and education (or boarding schools ;), becoming a go-to source for information for parents of school-aged children, and having the opportunity to convert those readers into applicants.
Be aware that the best blogs inform and entertain, not self promote. Schola Inbound Marketing says, “A school blog is not about advertising. Instead, it is about understanding your potential prospects, meeting them where they are and providing the right content for them at the right time.”
Stacy Jagodowski, Director of Strategic Marketing & Communications at Cheshire Academy, and Caitlin Garzi, Associate Director of Digital Marketing are kindred spirits, attached at the hip in promoting Cheshire Academy. They know the importance of close communication between their departments, synced strategy, and data driven decisions.
In 2014, they revamped an existing Cheshire Academy blog, creating “The Boarding School Blog: Tips on Applying to Boarding School and Boarding School Life” that has produced big results. In the first year, their blog views went up by 22% and visitors went up by more than 60%. Now in the second year, they have seen a 24% increase in views compared to 2014, which, compared to the original blog, is a 52% increase from 2013 and a 162% increase from 2012.
Cheshire Academy’s blog preceded Stacy and Caitlin’s arrival at the Academy. The original concept behind the then-titled “Imagine Yourself Here” blog was to have it chronicle the admission team as they traveled around the world.The blog featured updates from admission officers and profiles of students.
Stacy and Caitlin took a hard look at the blog and asked themselves if anyone would read it if they weren’t already a member of the Cheshire Academy community. They responded in unison, “No.” So the team strategized about how they could provide more value to readers and drive more traffic. They focused on consistency, link backs, and SEO content.
“The first thing we did was create personas,” says Caitlin. “Who did we want to read the blog, and what kind of content were we going to produce to get them there? Then we did keyword research to optimize our blog for search engine traffic.”
They landed on a target audience of prospective parents and boarding age students who would be searching for information about boarding schools in general — what boarding school life is like, how to apply, how to ace an interview, what to wear the first day of school, etc. The blog’s about page reads:
In the 220 years that Cheshire Academy has been around, our admission team has learned a trick or two for choosing the best boarding schools, navigating admission interviews, and researching programs like academic support or an IB Program.
We decided to put that knowledge to use beyond the green lawns of our campus by starting this blog! Here, we can answer your important questions and share ideas about the admission process.
Remember: there are so many great boarding schools out there, but it’s all about finding the school that’s the best fit for you!
“One of the great things about having a blog about boarding schools in general is that it doesn’t have to perfectly represent the Cheshire Academy brand,” Caitlin says. “We are limited about what we can write on our homepage news, because it’s coming from Cheshire Academy.”
“When it’s on the blog, we are just writing general tips to parents and students everywhere who are applying to myriad schools,” adds Stacy. “This allows us to reach a wider audience who may not even know about Cheshire Academy.”
Stacy and Caitlin have found that writing for this blog liberating, because they can write in a casual style that allows heavy use of keywords to help their SEO, and doesn’t need to align with the school’s policy on important issues like snow days. Instead, they can write more general advice thattargets how users search. Most important, they always provide links back to the Cheshire Academy website and/or to previous blogs.
By writing about topics they know, they find they can create a post easily and with little time investment. As a team, they suggest blog topics based on social trends (they posted a FAFSA-related blog the day after it started trending on Twitter) and keywords they know their target audience are using. By using a spreadsheet of keyword optimized titles, they arrive at content ideas fairly quickly, which is half the battle.
The top five posts with regard to views thus far have been:
They promote the blogs on the Cheshire Academy social accounts, including Stacy and Caitlin’s personal accounts. The top 5 referrers to the blog (in order) are Facebook, Twitter, search engines, Cheshireacademy.org, and ISMINC.com. “We pay attention to what performs well and how folks are finding us to guide what we write about next,” Stacy says.
(Not) The End
“Consistency is key,” Stacy points out. “We aimed for weekly posts last year and have recently increased our frequency to twice weekly. When we did so, we saw a 15% growth in readership month-to-month and a 22% increase in daily readership.” They hope to provide more enhancements in the future. According to Caitlin, “our goal for 2015-2016 is to convert more of our readers with calls to action and free content protected by a lead form. ”For now, they are taking their time to build readership and gain momentum with a goal of creating conversions: turning readers into inquiries, applicants, and enrollments.